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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back to Tahrir!

  So Egyptians took to the streets again this weekend, angered by a Cabinet-approved law that criminalizes protests by small groups.
  On the one hand, I can see the Cabinet's logic. They're not really targeting mass protests. They're after the day-in-day-out protests that have plagued every government office across Egypt. It's as if all of a sudden, after Jan25, every single employee has woken up from 30 years of apathy to demand higher wages and a new boss!
  I am not saying I don't see these workers' side or that I don't sympathize with them. I definitely do. But I also realize that things won't change overnight and that we need to work together to make things happen.
  From the protesters' side, I can also see why they are angry and why they decided to hit the streets. I think this new law was just the last straw for them. It's been almost a month and half now since Mubarak stepped down and the army took over temporarily. Let's review our progress since then:
  • Essam Sharaf leads a new government and boosts our trust and optimism for a better future;
  • We're told that Mubarak & his family cannot travel or leave the country;
  • We're also told that Mubarak's money has been frozen;
  • Former interior minister Haib el-Adly and several others are in prison and in the midst of a trial;
  • We went out and for the first time ever participated in democratic elections on the Constitution referendum.
Yes, these are all major steps in the right direction, but they are not enough and people are growing impatient and restless. Why? Here's a list of concerns on every protester's mind right now:
  • Progress in Mubarak's questioning over his money is either non-existent or super slow;
  • The three musketeers: Safwat el-Sherif, Zakaria Azmy & Fathy Serour are still out there enjoying life, with no indication that they will be question any time soon. I know the media announced they will be soon, but we have come to realize that the army's "soon" could take months, or who knows how long.
  • The counter revolution is everywhere. We don't know who to believe and who to trust anymore. Conspiracies everywhere! But all of a sudden, fires are spreading across government buildings; police offers are on strike; prisoners are escaping from across Egypt and Salafists and/or Muslim extremists are either spreading lies or committing the most horrid crimes against Christians.
  • Egyptian media still sucks! I feel there's no hope here! It's like these presenters were studying a special kind of mass communication that teaches them how to fool your audience!
   So the protesters who went out this weekend were protesting for all of the above if not more. They were calling for change in television; they were calling for trials of NDP leaders and they were calling for temporary president & former defense minister Tantawi to step down.
   I think these are fair demands and I support them wholeheartedly. Our revolution is slipping away from us and it's time to inject some excitement back in the air and get things moving. If army leaders are fooling us (and I sure hope not), then this should wake them up, and if they are just being too slow (which I can understand with the 1000x new responsibilities on their shoulders), this should boost their energy a little.
  So, although I support Sharaf's cabinet and have a lot of faith in this man, I still have to side with the protesters on this one. We have to be able to hit the streets and voice demands when we feel there's an urgent need to do so!
    The law will not take effect until the Supreme Council of Armed Forces approves it. Let's hope the army is still on our side and is leaning more towards my second theory (being slow), but still supportive. If that is the case, then I plead with the SCAF to turn  down this law.
    Jan25 gave all Egyptians the ultimate sense of freedom to just go out there and speak from the heart. So please don't try to take away our new-found freedom; that will be too painful for everyone!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Don't lose the spirit & let's move on!!

So the referendum results are out and I was disappointed. I naively thought the No supporters were winning, but I was flat out wrong! But I'm not here to whine about it. What's done is done, now let's move on!

Although the results were not in our favor, I think there's still a lot to celebrate:
  • This was Egypt's first ever democratic voting experience. It brought millions of Egyptians together to endure hours of long ORGANIZED LINES, to all share in the country's future. Can you believe it? Egyptians and lines?? The last time I tried to create a line in Egypt, I was in a McDonald's and out of nowhere, these two women came from behind me and forced their way in front of me. No one seemed to notice or get pissed off by this, aside from myself here!! So Yes, Egyptians from all walks of life were in line to vote. When the Cairo governor tried to skip the line, the people got angry and made it very clear he was being uncivilized. So I am so proud of my fellow Egyptians for such civilized behavior, let's keep this spirit!
  • It was also people's first taste of freedom and democracy. I watched television all day, checked tweets constantly and was amazed at the recurring comments of "my vote counts" or "my first democratic experience." So that in itself is a major achievement. We have never been given the right to vote for anything, and I mean in an honest vote where we know we count. I hope in future though, Egyptians abroad like myself here, will also be given the chance to participate and be included in determining the best future for our country.
  • I think this entire voting experience, along with the Yes and No campaigns that preceded have opened our eyes and given us true warnings on certain groups and organizations in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood, who played all innocent and peaceful throughout Jan25 finally lost their disguise and made it very clear that they have their own agenda. So, let's look on the bright side, and let's understand that we should be very cautious in our dealings with the MB in future, just like we need to be wary of the NDP.
  • What happened to Dr. El Baradei was horrible, barbaric and shameful. When a presidential candidate and his family get attacked by thugs, with stones being thrown, and his car getting smashed, that tells us that NDP supporters are still out there somewhere. The media initially claimed the attackers were religiously-affiliated. But according to tweets and videos from several activists that accompanied El Baradei, that is not true. They identified the attackers as thugs that were seen previously in older elections. So, once again, if there is one good that came out of this horrible incident, it is that El Baradei is a powerful candidate and that is obviously scaring some people. So let's use this to our advantage; let's get El Baradei's name and presidential plan out there. My hope is that people across Egypt and not just on Facebook and Twitter will come to realize how El Baradei would make a great leader for Egypt in the next phase.
  • Another lesson to learn from this experience is that it tells us we need stronger campaigns nationwide as well as more encouragement to hit the ballots. I think many Egyptians still live under the Mubarak regime mentality and don't realize that their vote really counts. We need to reach out to these people and encourage them to go out and vote. We also need to reach the masses. People across Egypt need to understand our policies & plans for the country. Just take a look at American presidential campaigns and how candidates travel everywhere and address people from various places around the USA.
 Whether we won or not, yesterday's referendum was a great achievement for Egypt. So, if you were in the No team, please get over it. I know that's not easy, but we do need to move on and learn from the experience and celebrate our wins! As the saying goes, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't forget to turn off your cell phone tomorrow!!

switch your mobile off Friday 18/3 on Twitpic
  Many Egyptians are turning off their cell phones on Friday. Why?
 It's payback time!
During the Jan25 Revolution, Mubarak ordered all Internet and cell phone services off. This meant that Egyptians were not allowed to contact the outside world to reveal the bloody crimes being committed. But it also meant that many of the injured couldn't be saved because there was no fast way to call for help!
    Egyptian activist and blogger, Nawara Negm, wrote on her blog, "I will never forget that we couldn't call the ambulance on Kasr el-Nil bridge. Why? Why should these faces die so early?"
    I support this Friday payback day for cell phone companies across Egypt. There is no excuse for any one person, organization or country to support terrorism and the brutal killing of innocent people. What these companies did was wrong and they know it. Yet at the time, they blamed Mubarak. But why did they agree? Why did they cut off service for almost five days, preventing protesters from calling for urgent help to save those badly injured?
   I think cutting off phone service for one day is a small price to pay. But I wonder how officials who made the decision to cut off service can sleep at night, knowing that their move caused the death of many innocent civilians.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Good news for Egypt's Jan 25 revolutionaries

So today's a happy day, because Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announced the end of Egypt's brutal State Security force.

Honestly, until I heard the news via Twitter, I was so pessimistic and depressed. The last few days have been frustrating, in terms of developments in Egypt. Here's a summary of what was depressing me over the past few days:
  • For one, the army has suddenly turned all brutal! They tortured some protesters on March 9th in the process of forcing people out of Tahrir Square. You'd think they'd come out and explain their actions, but no; they did no such thing!
  • Army is so quick to arrest and trial protesters fighting for freedom and democracy and yet they have taken no concrete steps to eradicate corrupt officials like Safwat el-Sherif, Zakaria Azmy or Fathi Serour. That's a very bad sign; it tells me that we're not getting rid of corruption and that these people still have power; lots of power it seems.
  • Violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in one Egyptian city ended with 13 dead and many others injured. So Muslims and Christians stood hand in hand all throughout our revolution and then this happens? Clearly it was a set up and sadly many people from both sides fell for it. Let's hope it never happens again and that the Tahrir spirit wins in the end.
  • Egyptian state television continues to spit out lies! I plead with every single Egyptian to boycott government television; it sucks big time!!! It is amazing how media professionals can sit and lie straight in your face without blinking! But it is our fault for giving them the chance; they don't deserve the attention, so stop watching, please!!!
  • There are a lot of rumors and conspiracies about the NDP corrupt officials who are still fighting the Egyptian Revolution and are trying to force their way back in power. And seeing that Serour, Azmy and El-Sherif are still sitting in their comfortable, luxurious homes, I can see that happening!
  • Constitutional referendum is coming up this weekend, and the amendments are horrible, yet some Egyptians are OK with the changes! I am afraid some people are OK with the amendments because they are tired of the struggle and they naively think voting YES means stability and back to normal life. What they don't realize is, if they vote YES, we are giving the green light for a new era of dictatorship, only this time, we don't know who's leading.
  • Oh, and I almost forgot to mention this nuisance called Amr Moussa! Moussa, who literally, did nothing for the revolution; who blindly supported the Mubarak regime, and who has never stood up with Arabs as Arab League Secretary General. Yet, he has the audacity to announce plans to run for presidency! What's worse? some Egyptians like him! I'm baffled by this. How are people so blind to his multiple flaws and weaknesses??

So, you see, there's been a lot on my mind and a whole lot of issues I've been contemplating and trying to resolve. But with the news of State Security's finale today, at least there's hope.

I have great respect for our new PM and I trust him to do the right thing. His cabinet has been working real hard and they're facing lots of challenges, so let's give them credit for doing what they're doing.

I don't however, share the same feelings towards our dear army. Day after day, I am losing faith in the army and they're starting to scare me big time!!! Now this is sad for me because my father is a former army general and I've always had great respect for military people. At least for those from my father's generation. That's because of dad's stories and experiences in the military and from meeting all his other military friends.

But what we're witnessing today in the form of army brutality, humiliation and dictatorship goes against the values of a respectable army. How can a soldier who is trained to defend his country and people jump on another human being, hit him with a whip or torture him with a Taser? How can an army person humiliate women with foul language and slaps on the face?

I hope our military realizes what they're doing is dangerous and try to do the right thing, because I know I'm not the only one who's losing faith in our army!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Proud to be an Egyptian Woman

I can honestly say there has never been a time when I have felt so proud for being an Egyptian and a WOMAN as I do right this second!

This feeling started with the beginning of the Jan25 Revolution, but every day, it keeps growing. I've watched Egyptian female activists on television, calling for demands; I saw them chanting in Tahrir Square, side by side, with the men; and I continue to see them tweet and Facebook with updates and developments from Egypt.

I remember when I first came to the US in 2000, some people would ask me about the status of women in Egypt and in the Arab world, and I would always try to convince them that not all women are oppressed and helpless as the Western media usually portrays them to be. I say "convince" because it does take quite some convincing and many times, that doesn't even work. For years, the West has portrayed the Arab woman as someone who is oppressed, helpless, ignorant, and a victim that needs saving. It gets worse if this woman wears a veil, which is a large bulk of the female sex in the Arab world!

So when Jan25 started, I was so happy to see networks like CNN and prominent newspapers such as the New York Times pay serious attention to events in Egypt, which in turn, introduced Western audiences to a new face of the Egyptian woman.

Then came the Lara Logan incident to interrupt my moment of pride in the most disturbing and painful way! I felt anger and shame that this sexual harassment incident was happening at the same place that was my source of pride. But I felt more anger towards the Western media, which once again, went back to the old recycled stereotype of the oppressed Arab woman. For more than a week, media ignored events related to the Jan25 revolution to focus instead on sensational details of sexual harassment in Egypt and the women of Egypt who fall victims to it.

Yet, what many of these reports failed to mention was that it was Egyptian women who saved Logan by crowding over her and covering her with their own bodies to protect her. These are the same women who were revolting in Tahrir Square and the same women who got injured, just like the men, in clashes with anti-protesters.

These reports also failed to mention that, while sexual harassment is common in Egypt, it is also practiced in the most civilized and liberal countries, including the US. Documentaries like War Zone and Picture Me are enough proof that this is a problem facing women everywhere! Does this mean we should refer to all women of the world as oppressed victims?

Back to my moment of pride; I was able to recover from this harsh interruption and go back to enjoying my new sense of pride. I still feel this way, but even more so now.

I always knew that there are many Egyptian women out there who are strong, independent and not afraid to voice an opinion or enforce change. But I also realized that Jan25, was giving Egyptian women a stronger voice and encouraging those women who were hesitant or fearful in the face of injustice before Jan25 to join in and stand up to their oppressor!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Egyptian revolution creates new trends

What an interesting day!

Last night I watched one of the most open and honest political discussions in the history of Egyptian television. A show on Egypt's OTV invited former Minister Ahmad Shafik with a number of pro-revolution figures: Hamdy Kandil, Naguib Sawiris and last but not least Alaa Al Aswany.
  I am quite sure no one expected the outcome that the millions of Egyptians and Arabs witnessed last night. It was a show that was both entertaining and shocking. For the first time, intellectuals were allowed to debate politics head-to-head with a high ranking government official.
  Not only that, Alaa Al Aswany, defied Shafik in a heated debate that lead some viewers to accuse Aswany of being outright rude! I can understand why some people found Aswany's vocal criticism to be rude, but I don't share their sentiments.
   Most Egyptians are not used to such open and heated debates and are used to seeing our government officials treated with high respect. For so long, our oppressive political culture has trained us to view government officials as untouchables. So this was a first!
   Secondly, I am convinced that Aswany was speaking on behalf of Egypt's 84 million people when he questioned Shafik on police brutality and corruption among other issues. I was proud to have a dedicated and passionate intellectual such as Aswany speaking on my behalf.
  OTV's show was not just special because of its honesty and shock element; it was also special because of its outcome!
Soon after the show, Ahmad Shafik resigned and Egypt's Higher Council of Armed Forces announced the appointment of Essam Sharaf as the new prime minister.
What was also novel was the way the HCAF announced its decision! This was done through the HCAF's Facebook page!!
  What happened since last night's OTV show, in my view, is the sign of a new era for freedom of expression in Egypt. I am very optimistic and hopeful that from now one, things will start moving in the right direction.
   Let's hope I'm right on this one!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why are we turning against Tahrir?

   So I'm really mad and frustrated right now.
   More and more Egyptians, including some really close friends and relatives, are turning against protesters in Tahrir Square. I hear complaints such as, "what else do they want?" or "Why are they not giving Shafik a chance?"
  Well, if you are Egyptian and you can read and conduct online research, then you can easily find the answers to these questions. I'm not going to waste any time or effort in explaining why we can't accept Ahmad Shafik as prime minister; a prime minister that was imposed on us by Mubarak!!
   But I do want to say to every single Egyptian who has turned his or her back on the Tahrir protesters this:
  • You should be grateful and thankful to every single man or woman in Tahrir because we wouldn't be where we are today without them.
  • While many Egyptians initially opposed or ridiculed Jan25, these determined protesters never gave up on us or on Egypt.
  • Don't forget the hundreds that lost their lives for the rest of us to enjoy freedom.
  • Take one look at Egyptian television and you will realize that the battle is still on!
   I know that some of us are privileged and we don't need any more changes, or at least we think so. But honestly people, if we forget about the whole revolution and get back to normal life, which is what many people are calling for, then you might as well forget about freedom for good!
   What we accomplished on Jan25 was not simple, but it wasn't everything either.
   We managed to cut off the head of corruption. Now we need to work on the rest of that body, starting with the current government and working our way to the lower ranking corrupts that occupy every single government office in the country!
  So please, next time you want to complain about the Tahrir protesters, remember these words. And, if you don't want to join them in Tahrir, that's fine, but stop ridiculing them and stop complaining!!!!